Have you ever been to one of those self-help seminars, where they give you a fun worksheet to fill out in which your life is divided into neat little segments on a pie chart?
As you fill out the different sections that may be lacking or unbalanced in your life, you have the stunning realization that if you could just devote enough time and energy to each slice of life-pie, everything would be hunkey-dorey!
Yeah, I’ve been sucked in by that one too.
It looks great on paper, but in real-life, not so much.
This is unrealistic for a couple of reasons. Firstly, life isn’t actually a series of neatly demarcated little slices. It is interdependent, fluid and messy. (Ever tried to be productive at work when your “health zone” is not great? How fulfilling is your family time when you are late with a work deadline?)
Secondly, our culture falsely tells us that we can and should have it all, right now: a rock-star career, Brady-bunch kids, a passionate-sex-3-times-a-week marriage, an active social life, hobbies and passions plus time to work out, chill out, “work on ourselves” and plan for our future. (And if you are a woman, all while looking like a super-model).
This exhausts me just thinking about it.
And thirdly, the big secret that a lot of outwardly successful people don’t always let on: when we are “succeeding” in one area of our lives, we are usually “failing” at another. This isn’t bad or good, just how the cookie crumbles. We have finite time, energy and resources and if we are pouring all of them into one area then other areas have to do without, temporarily at least.
So rather than feeling stressed, anxious or guilty when you inevitably fail at being able to measure out your time over a broad range of segments, I invite you to give that up entirely and try something else.
Rather than trying to find balance, find your centre.
Being centred means having access to a calm and clear internal reference point no matter what the changing situations and circumstances of your life may bring in the moment, and understanding that life occurs in seasons. Being centred is a state of being, irrespective of what you are doing.
Here are some of my suggestions on finding and living from your centre:
1) Meditate Every Day
I don’t care how crazy your life might be right now, meditation is the best way I know of to discover and keep reconnecting to your centre. It has to be a non-negotiable part of your day, the clarity of mind it brings is essential to navigating life’s rough waters and coping with stress. Twenty minutes a day is ideal. If you honestly, truly can’t find 20, do 10. Check out my Beginner’s Guide to Meditation if you need a hand getting started.
2) Know YOUR Priorities
Rather than trying to balance your pie-slices, get clear on what your priorities are and where you want to (or have to) spend your time and energy. Know that your priorities may have to change from day to day and week to week – as much as we try to, we can’t control all of the external circumstances of our lives.
If you have some freedom with where you can spend your time and energy, make sure that your priorities are truly YOURS.
Not someone else’s. Not what your culture ascribes to you. A lot of us trying to live up to some false idea of what success and happiness is supposed to look like. Redefine what happiness and success looks like for YOU.
Sometimes we have strayed so far from our true priorities we can feel lost and like we no longer know who we really are. For this, I can’t recommend taking a sabbatical or going on a retreat highly enough. Structured, intentional time away from your daily life where you have the time and space to go deep within can be really illuminating. Going on a retreat once every year is ideal to staying aligned with who you really are and what you truly want.
3) Go Easy On Yourself
Are you holding yourself up to impossible standards? Are you striving for perfection? Like I said earlier, if you are succeeding at one area you are most likely failing in another. Both are fleeting so it is really important not to have your sense of self-worth tied to results or to strive for success in all areas of life. Sometimes you have to drop your standards in some areas and just let some things slide. (New mothers trying to keep the house spotless – I’m talking to YOU). Sometimes you also just have to stop what you are doing and take a nap .
4) Don’t Let Your Health Slide
So yes, you can let some things slide, but your health and wellbeing is NOT one of them. I know how tempting it can be when life gets crazy just to eat whatever is crappy, comforting and convenient, but please don’t do that. Sure, maybe miss some of your work outs if you don’t have time and just take a quick walk instead, but don’t sacrifice on nutrition and try your best not to sacrifice on sleep. Once your health and energy goes, everything falls in a heap.
5) Be Ruthless With Your Time
So once you are clear on what your priorities are, be ruthless with getting rid of any time wasting activities. And by time-wasting I don’t mean unproductive or relaxing activities, I mean those activities that are neither relaxing nor productive. (Social media, pointless scrolling, binge-TV, gossiping, reading junky magazines or tabloids, worrying over things you can’t control etc)
6) Keep Coming Back To Your Breath
In Zen Buddhism, meditation doesn’t just happen on the cushion. Every moment is practice and an opportunity to be present and aware. One simple way you can cultivate this present-moment awareness is to keep some of your attention on your breath, no matter what you are doing. Don’t try to control the breath in any way, just remain observant. You will no doubt forget over and over but set little reminders where you will see them until it becomes a habit.
7) Trust That There Is Perfection Beneath The Chaos
And finally, let go of the notion that life has to be ordered and organized to be beautiful and harmonious. Your life is now, and it is perfect in it’s own way, however it is showing up for you right now. Don’t wait for everything to be perfectly balanced to appreciate what you have.
“The reason everything looks beautiful is it is out of balance, but its background is always in perfect harmony. This is how everything exists in the realm of Buddha nature, losing its balance against a background of perfect balance.” – Shunryu Suzuki, Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind. “
So in the comment below, I’d love to know:
Have you struggled to find life-balance?
What are your ways of feeling centred – even when life gets chaotic?